FBI: Civilian charged with involuntary manslaughter in fatal accident at Keesler AFB

Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 3:25 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 29, 2021 at 5:37 PM CDT
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - A Biloxi man who works as a civilian contractor at Keesler Air Force Base had a combination of legal and illegal drugs in his system at the time of a fatal accident on base. That’s according to the criminal complaint obtained by WLOX News.

Wednesday’s accident killed an Airman and injured three others on base. On Thursday, Emmett J. Bennett, 24, was charged with involuntary manslaughter and operation of a vehicle while impaired causing death. He’s already made his initial appearance before a judge in Gulfport.

The criminal complaint outlines disturbing details of what happened before and after the crash. It says Bennett was driving south of Ploesti Drive on Keesler Air Force Base shortly after 1 p.m. on Wednesday.

Witnesses said he was speeding, and narrowly avoided an accident with another vehicle before the fatal crash. Witnesses had also reported Bennett acting in an erratic manner.

The criminal complaint said Bennett crossed the northbound lane of Ploesti Drive and struck a light pole. The vehicle then struck four Airmen while they were walking on a walking track, killing one and injuring the others. The man who died was dragged about 100 feet down the road.

After the vehicle stopped, a witness reported seeing Bennett get out of the vehicle and walk over to the victim, picking him up and shaking him “in an attempt to wake him.” That same witness also observed Bennett foaming at the mouth.

Biloxi Police were called to the accident scene, bringing an accident reconstruction specialist, a trained drug recognition expert, and a state DUI training officer.

According to one of the responding officers, Bennett was initially falling asleep during the field testing. But about 39 minutes later, a stimulant of some kind kicked in and Bennett was “pinging around the room.”

Eventually, Bennett gave officers a recap of his day. He said he went to work on base around 8 a.m. At noon, he left the base for lunch where he took a kratom “shot” and drank a Red Bull. The accident happened as he was returning from lunch.

Bennett later admitted to investigators that around 10 a.m. he had taken 10 kratom pills. According to the criminal complaint, testing also found marijuana in his system.

An investigation into all the factors leading up to the accident continues.

On Thursday, 24-year-old Emmett J. Bennett was charged with involuntary manslaughter and...
On Thursday, 24-year-old Emmett J. Bennett was charged with involuntary manslaughter and operation of a vehicle while impaired causing death.(Harrison County Sheriff's Department)

“The FBI extends our deepest condolences to the family of the Airman who was killed in this tragedy,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Jackson Division, Paul Brown. “Our thoughts are also with the three Airmen that were injured and the entire Keesler community.”

Two of the injured men were treated at the Keesler Medical Center. The third was taken to a medical facility in New Orleans. All three are currently in stable condition. The next of kin notification has been made, and the name of the deceased Airman is being withheld until 24 hours following the notification.

“This is a tragic accident and loss for the 81st Training Wing and our community,” said Col. Bill Hunter, 81st Training Wing commander. “We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our Airmen and we are thinking of and praying for all those involved.”

According to the statement released from the FBI on Thursday, there is no threat to public safety.

The FBI has jurisdiction over the fatal accident since it happened on federal property and the suspect is a civilian. However, the FBI is working with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Air Force Security Forces and the Biloxi Police Department.

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